Thursday 14 April 2016

The Six Sections of the Trunk

In Karate-Do, in harmony with the limbs (arms, legs and neck)—and the power derived from terra-firmer—we must correctly control and utilize the six parts/sections of the trunk.

Before I jot down these six sections and briefly explain their basic usage/coordination, it is important for me to stress that “…while they—are essential—they are still ‘physically secondary’ to the power derived from the ground”; in particular, via ‘kakato-chushin’. It is very obvious that this grounding, essentially based on the laws of gravity, is the origin of the term  ‘base’ or ‘basic’: the foundation is at the ground. Hence, the kahanshin (lower body) is the focus in Shotokan. Nevertheless, after the building (and maintenance) of a solid foundation, what is built on top of it cannot be arbitrarily understood and used. So that brings us to the specific question of: “what are these sections/structures in your trunk?”: Well, in my own terminology, they are as follows:

一 The Left Chest and Left Upper Back

二 The Right Chest and Right Upper Back

三  The Left Abdomen and the Left Central to Lower Back

四  The Right Abdomen and Right Central to Lower Back

五  Frontal Lower Abdomen

六  Central Lower Back

 Before I go on, please note that this is my simplification: While there are some small variations—description-wise (amongst the senior Shotokan instructors here in Japan)—I designed the above simplified list for my ‘English-only-speaking’ deshi (students) and renshusei (trainees). In addition to this, I’ve avoided using the medical/anatomical terms for body parts. My rationale behind this was, and is,  to optimally clarify this imperative breakdown; moreover and more importantly, to physically understand/apply this knowledge. With this in mind, I’d like to explain how the six parts/sections of the trunk are used.

The overarching categories of trunk control: To begin with, in regards to controlling these ‘sections’, there are several variations; however to avoid confusion, they are best grouped into four
 overarching categories: 1. 縦 (Vertical);  2. 横 (Horizontal--forward and back); 3. 丸 (circular on an even plain); 4. 円 (like a 'ball').

The basic coordination of each section—the apartment analogy: Next let's look at the basic coordination of each section… I often describe this to karateka by using the analogy of “…different but adjacent apartments, on the same floor, of three story apartment complex”. Let’s do this in the reverse order, from the top down. Please keep this ‘reverse order’ in mind…

‘The third floor’ includes the ‘left chest and right chest’ in correspondence with each other via: (a) the three vertical axises (central axis, left axis, and right axis); (b) their degrees of horizontal tilting; and furthermore (c) their direct correspondence with the left and right upper sides of the back. 

Likewise and needless to say, this also fully applies to ‘the second floor’: the two separate sections of the abdomen (left and right upper to lower abdomen) and the lower side of the back (left and right central to lower sides of the back).

And, indeed, what applies on the third and second floors also applies on the ‘first floor’ of the apartment complex: the frontal lower abdomen and central lower back.

A contradiction? ‘Base-up’ or top-down’? So, you may be asking yourself (or perhaps you were questioning before, as a result of my prompt) why I started from the top down, as opposed from the base up? Isn’t this in contradiction to my aforementioned statement of ‘starting from the ground-up’—or ‘base power’—being of primary importance. Well, in simple terms, yes. However, in regards to thinking and applying the three vertical axises, the most natural/easiest way is literally from the top-down. Moreover, and not un-coincidently, this elucidates an important point in Karate-Do: the next phase in technique above the basic ‘one-directional (‘support foot/feet to the impact weapon’) source of power’. This secondary, advanced method, generates power from the centre in two directions: (1) from the centre, directing power down to the support foot/feet (to the ground); and (2) simultaneously with ‘1’, from the centre, directing power to the impact weapon. There is a third, highly advanced generation of power, but this transcends the scope of this article.

A broad perspective of using the six sections of the trunk: The main thing to understand is that perception of the axises are easier from the top down; also, in relation to these vertical lines (and horizontal tilting), is the coordination of the six sections of the trunk. Last but not least, these sections are used (1) together (as described above), (2) separately/in isolation, (3) vertically, (4) horizontally and (5) in various combinations of areas, directions and order.

A concrete example of using the trunk correctly in isolation: To provide a concrete example of what I have described in this article, let's consider one kihonwaza, say ‘hidari sokumen hidari chudan uchi-uke’ in ‘migi kokutsu-dachi’ (Movement one of Heian Sandan and Heian Godan respectively). To keep things focused I will only describe two aspects of ‘trunk usage’ (how these sections coordinate) to contribute towards an optimum uchi-uke. 

Example of two points with Chudan uchi-uke:

1. During the wind up of chudan uchi-uke the left and right sides of the chest are contracted/closed and, simultaneously, the left and right sides of the upper back are expanded/opened.

2. Next the reverse occurs as the chudan uchi-uchi is executed: The left and right sides of the chest are expanded/opened and, simultaneously, the left and right sides of the upper back and contracted/closed.

Certainly we could expand on this, especially in regards to the central lower back in coordination with the abdomen, however, I think the point I’ve been trying to make has already been made, which is, "the the entire body is used in Karate-Do, nevertheless, the coordination and order of using these bodily sections change; moreover, exist in various degrees." 

Irrespective of everything technical, the main physical point of technique (in Budo Karate) is to be able to optimally control oneself both physically and mentally; moreover, to be able to do so in the context of self-protection or the protection of others. Technique and bodily control is meaningless: if only useful in a karate context (the dojo, competitions, or demonstrations). In order to have optimal effectiveness, in the real world, we need to fully—and optimally—control ‘the limbs’ (arms and hands; legs and feet, and neck); the shoulders and hips (‘the connectors’ of  limbs to the trunk); and the six sections of the trunk. Best wishes from Japan.
押忍, アンドレ
© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2016).

Sunday 3 April 2016

Visitors from Australia

Over the weekend we had the pleasure of having Natsuko Mineghishi Sensei, her students (and their family members) from Melbourne, Australia: Shotokan Karatedo International Federation – Karyukai Dojo.
Briefly in sum, the two 2-hour practices were focused on key underpinning aspects (shisei, koshi no kaiten, tai no shinshuku, shime and junansei) to generate maximum power. By combining the points taught on both days, these sessions will provide a springboard for long term advancement; in particular, in regards to maximizing impact power—in the context of self-defense.

Outside of the dojo it was also lovely to spend time with Natsuko Sensei and her team. We wish you all a safe and enjoyable journey home to Australia. 押忍!
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2016).